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An Amazon Adventure--Heliconias

As you are walking through the jungle in the Amazon, you will see a very colorful plant. Bright reds, yellows and oranges are the main color on its' flower. It is a Heliconia. With over 450 species, you are sure to have seen one some where, but not known what it was. These bright plants can grow to a height anywhere from two to twenty feet, depending on variety.. The flower, or inflorescence of the Heliconia stays almost constant, and may last from several days to several months.

Heliconias like places with a lot of water, rich soil, and sunlight. Heliconias grow in places where the temperature stays at 40c and higher. All of these plants are pollinated by birds or bugs. Heliconias are popular house plants, and can grow in temperatures ranging from 60 to 76 degrees F.


The psittacorum (or parrot's beak)Heliconias are small, dainty and exotically tropical, and resemble the plant know commonly as Bird-of-Paradise. They bloom abundantly all year. "Flower" heads appear to be hand painted and glow with brilliant colors. The psittacorums rarely exceed 3' - 6' in height. The floral bracts of psittacorums arise from the same point on the stem. Psittacorums don't mind cool temperatures, but do best in warm, humid areas.


The strictas have exotic inflorescence that mimic shish kebabs of lobster claws. The crimson claws are rigid and retain their shape and color for weeks. Just as lobsters from different seas come in an array of shapes, sizes, colors, as do their floral counterparts. The lobster claws are the most diverse of all the Heliconias. Colors of the inflorescence range from red, gold, orange, maroon, and green singly or in combination. Smaller lobster claws are slimmer, shorter stemmed and more refined in shape than the larger lobster claws. There are several small lobster varieties whose bracts tend to be flat-sided rather than rounded.

Below is a list of some of the more popular Heliconias.

Heliconia rostrata

Traditional and most recognized Heliconia.

Characteristics: Blooms are pendulous, or hanging, up to 3' in length with striking red and yellow bracts. Originally from the Amazon.

Heliconia psittacorum "Andromeda"

Characteristics: orange-red shading to pink bracts and white frosting color at base of green tips. The sepals are orange with distal metallic black or green band and orange tips. Flowers are very long lasting. Blooms all year.

Heliconia "Tortuga": Heliconia psittacorum x spathocircinata "Tortuga"

Characteristics: bracts fiery orange-red at base with yellow-gold ends with splashes of red. Sepals golden yellow with faint green distally. The stem has dark red spots on it.

Heliconia psittacorum "Lady Di"

Characteristics: Dark rose-red bracts and cream-yellow sepals with dark green bands and white tips.

Heliconia psittacorum "Choconiana"

Characteristics: orange inflorescence with orange bracts and orange sepals with distal black bands and yellow and white tips. Flowers are long lasting.

Heliconia psittacorum "Rosi"

Characteristics: bracts are rosy-pink distally and light pink proximally. Sepals are beautiful light green with yellow cream stripes and dark green bands and cream tips.

Heliconia psittacorum x spathocircinata "Golden Torch"

Characteristics: extremely large golden boat-shaped bracts with butter yellow flowers. Inflorescence like rigid golden sun rays with excellent color, longevity and durable texture. Somewhat larger than most other psittacorums. Originally from Guyana.

Heliconia stricta "Dwarf Jamaican"

Characteristics: one of the smaller strictas(1 ' - 3' high). 5" dainty inflorescence that are rose-colored that evenly grade from pale to deep hues. Each bract is ridged with green on its upper edge, matching the tiny green and white striped sepals. This is one of the only Heliconias that can grow in variable temperatures.


Heliconia stricta "Sharonii"

Characteristics: Red and yellow inflorescence that stand erect. Foliage is a red wine color on the undersides of the dark green leaves.


Rhizomatous--> A horizontal, usually underground stem that often sends out roots and stems from its nodes. Also known as rootstalk.

Bracts--> plant part, usually small, sometimes showy or brightly colored, and located just below the a flower, a flower stalk, or inflorescence.

Florets--> A small or reduced flower, especially one of the grasses or composite plants, such as a daisy.

Sepals--> One of the separate, usually green parts forming the calex of a flower.

Calex--> The sepals of a flower, usually in a group.

A few sources of interest: